Sexual harassment is a problem throughout the world, and Lebanon is no exception.

Women in the country frequently complain about unwanted comments from men as they walk down the street, men masturbating next to them on buses or in cabs and even physical assaults.

The KIP Project on Gender and Sexuality aims to target this societal problem head on, letting the Lebanese population know that sexual harassment is never OK. 

Last year, the KIP Project, which is based out of the Olayan School of Business at the American University of Beirut and funded by the U.S. Department of State, launched an awareness campaign under the hashtag 'NotYourAshta', raising awareness about harassment in Lebanon. Now, the project has launched another campaign using the hashtag 'Mesh basita.'

"'Mesh basita' stands for the idea that sexual harassment is 'not okay.' It also has a double meaning, suggesting that the person is not naive and will take a stand against harassment," Heather Jaber, communications coordinator for KIP told StepFeed in an email.

Campaign billboards and stickers have begun popping up around Beirut

And many have begun sharing the hashtag with their own messages

The project was launched in coordination with Lebanon's new Ministry of State for ​W​omens Affairs

In December, Lebanon appointed its first-ever minister of state for women's affairs. Although the position was given to a man, leading to significant criticism, many also saw the move as a small positive step for the country.

Minister Jean Oghassabian and his office have been instrumental in launching the 'mesh basita' campaign with KIP.

"Through a productive and positive partnership with the Office of the Minister of State for ​W​omens affairs we worked with Mrs. Abir Chebaro [advisor on women's affairs] and her team to think about a public awareness campaign," Jaber explained.

"We were lucky to have Rana Khoury, who has worked on various powerful campaigns ​(e.g., ​the Kafa "Legally Bride"​ campaign, the ABAAD "#Undress522" campaign, among others​) ​related to gender and sexuality in Lebanon over the years, come up with the concept," she said.

"While many often tend to downplay instances of harassment and suggest that these are part of everyday social life, the campaign hopes to highlight the many forms harassment may take in an effort to draw attention to the fact that they are violations."

KIP is doing a lot in addition to awareness campaigns

As Jaber explained, the two-year project aims to "push for the generation and dissemination of knowledge around gender and sexuality in Lebanon."

During the project's first year it built bridges between Lebanon's various civil society and academics working on these issues. The goal was to "create more ways for interaction, sharing of information and generation of well-informed knowledge," she said.

After talking to these many individuals and groups, the KIP team determined two major areas that needed attention: sexual harassment and discrimination.

"We decided that we would focus specifically on this for year two through our knowledge-production and dissemination efforts within the Lebanese landscape," Jaber said.

Nawal El Saadawi at KIP Project in Beirut
Conversation with Egypt's Dr. Nawal El Saadawi at the KIP conference in April Source: Facebook/The KIP Project

The project has funded various studies regarding these issues and hosted a conference earlier this year to reveal the findings, bringing together renowned regional and international academics to discuss issues of gender and sexuality.

"We believe that issues of gender and sexuality can't be isolated from any one sector or discipline," Jaber said. "We similarly want to invite all voices from the national landscape to share their messages because these issues, and sexual harassment, in particular, concern all members of society."